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Sunday, May 19, 2024

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‘Safe Surrender’ Offers Second Chance

Court Gavel Image

By Vince Conti

BURLEIGH – The first “Safe Surrender” event held in Cape May County was a success if one measures success in terms of the 92 individuals who no longer have to fear arrest for outstanding warrants.
The turnout at The Lighthouse Church here Sept. 28 may have been lower than some expected, but the impact of the event was what it did for those who went.
The “Safe Surrender” organized through the Atlantic/Cape May Vicinage with the help of the Middle Township Police Department, offered individuals on the run from warrants a second chance.
Those who went could get their warrants recalled, settle arrangements for outstanding fines and, when necessary, get a new court date. A short visit to the church gymnasium and they left with no fear of imminent arrest.
Assistant Court Administrator Jill Houck said the organizers of the event had no idea what numbers to anticipate.
The gymnasium with so many orange-shirted court workers could have handled a larger turnout. As the first event of its kind, it may have had to prove itself.
Those who went learned that safe surrender really did mean safe from arrest. They entered unsure of whether or not they would be taken into custody.  Trust comes hard at times. They left with a sense of a burden lifted.
Maggie Swayze in her orange shirt accepted final paperwork at the exit.  “They were so happy when they left,” she said.
Many said they would tell their friends not to fear a future event. 
Pastor Charles Hurrah predicted the word would spread rapidly.
Those who had warrants in jurisdictions that could not be handled at the event received proof of attendance which they could take to courts in other parts of the state to show their good intentions.
For one individual, a call was made to Trenton to have his case discussed with the appropriate judge. 
Help was available in all forms at the event. After court personnel cleared warrants, individuals could visit with a number of social service groups that staffed tables to provide assistance with housing, jobs, civil legal issues, addiction treatment, and even driver’s license suspension.
One table staffed by the Motor Vehicle Commission offered a quick way to record the resolution of outstanding warrants and regain driving legal privileges.
The safe surrender offered an opportunity to end life on the run. For those who took advantage, it was again possible to emerge from the shadows.
To contact Vince Conti, email vconti@cmcherald.com.

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